top of page
Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
Southern Historical Papers

The Captured Guns at Spotsylvania Courthouse --
Correction of General Ewell's Report.

Letter from Major Page.

Charlottesville, VA., September 15th, 1879.

S.V. Southall, Esq.,
Late Adjutant General Artillery, Second Corps, A.N.V.:

My Dear Sir, -- My attention was first called during the month of January last to General Ewell's report of the battle of Spotsylvania, May 12th, 1864. In consequence of an error therein contained, regarding myself, I have thought it my duty to write out a full statement of the whole affair, so far as regards my connection with it, and respectfully submit it to your consideration. The guns of my battalion had been withdrawn from the works, in accordance with orders, as you remember, on the previous evening, to a point about one and a half miles in rear of the salient, and near the Courthouse, where most of the artillery of the Second corps went into camp for the night, preparatory to marching next morning. The enemy was reported to be moving from our front and towards our right. Horses, therefore, were not only unhitched but unharnessed; what few tents we had were pitched on account of the rain, and the whole camp reposed in a state of most profound security. About twenty minutes of four o'clock next morning, May 12th, I was awakened by Lieutenant S.H. Pendleton, of General Long's staff, who informed me that the enemy were reported to have returned as if for the purpose of attacking the salient, and that I was ordered to proceed at once to occupy that part of the line. The men were aroused, the horses were harnessed and hitched and my battalion left camp in so short a time after the order was received, that it was not only generally noticed, but General Long, in his report, says that I moved my battalion with "great rapidity." Having consulted with Colonel Thomas H. Carter, my immediate superior officer, during the time of harnessing, &c., it was fully understood that Carter's battery, two rifles and two light twelves, should take the lead and occupy the salient itself -- to be followed in order by Montgomery, four light twelves, who was to take position just to the left of Carter; Fry, two rifles under command of Lieutenant Deas, to take position about one hundred yards to the right of Carter; and Reese, four rifles, about fifty yards to the right of Fry. Total, fourteen guns -- two of Fry's guns having been sent, the day previous, on detached service, under the immediate command of Captain Fry.

          As we ascended the hill, just before entering the long, narrow and difficult space between the woods on our left and line of works on our right, through which the column had to pass in order that the batteries might get into their respective positions, one of Montgomery's guns became detained by some accident, and thus escaped capture. There was a heavy fog and some scattering musketry, but no enemy visible, though they must have been much nearer than I had any idea of, as subsequent events showed. Arrived at the salient, and having explained to Captain William P. Carter that he was to occupy that point with his four guns, and having pointed out to Captain Montgomery the position for his three guns, just on Carter's left, I returned along the line of works by which we had come, in order to place Fry's two guns under Lieutenant Deas, and thence to Reese's battery. Having seen Reese going into position, I started off to return to Montgomery's battery (formerly commanded by me), but was astonished to find that the enemy had already captured that part of the line, together with Montgomery's three guns, Carter's four and Fry's two. Captain Carter, as I afterwards understood from some of the men who had escaped, had succeeded in getting two of his guns in position and fired twice. None of Montgomery's guns were in position. Lieutenant Charles L. Coleman, of this battery, fell mortally wounded, and his body was never recovered. It is said that while lying on the ground a corporal, in the confusion, asked him which way he should point the gun. "At the Yankees!" he replied, and those were his last words. Lieutenant Deas was wounded and captured while endeavoring, as usual, to do his utmost, regardless of odds, and if I remember rightly, he succeeded in firing once. In this condition of affairs, I returned to Reese's battery at once, and ordered Captain Reese to save his guns. Only one was saved, and this was brought off under the charge of a sergeant, whose name, I regret to say, I cannot recall. Captain Reese and the remaining three guns were captured, without the opportunity of firing a shot. This rifle gun of Reese's, therefore, and Montgomery's brass twelve pounder, before mentioned, were the only two guns of my battalion that were saved, and I came off with them along with Lieutenant Cochran, of Montgomery's battery, and perhaps others. The remaining twelve guns of my battalion were captured, to wit: five brass twelve pounders and two iron rifles in and close to the salient; and five iron rifles some one hundred and fifty yards or more to the right. Had our guns been in position, my capture along with them might have been a necessity. As it was, I escaped just as I would have done from a captured wagon train. The seven guns in and near the salient could easily have been, and probably were, at once hauled off by the enemy, through an opening, just at the salient, in the works, made by us previously, for the express purpose of passing guns. I remained on the field until ordered by General Long to collect, at some point near the Courthouse, what men and material I had left, and there to await further orders Montgomery, that gallant officer, remaining on the field with one gun.

          About eight P.M., I received orders, through Lieutenant S.H. Pendleton from General Long, to report to General Ewell, at the Harris house, with the men I had, for the purpose of hauling off four brass guns, said to have been recaptured during the day. Sergeant S.S. Green (son of the late Doctor Green, U.S.N., and formerly of Culpeper), of Montgomery's battery, was with me, and volunteered to search for the guns, with the view of sending me word if he found them, so that I could join him with the rest of the men, about thirty all told. Sergeant Green, however, returned after about an hour's absence and reported that he had been unable to find any guns, although he had gone with the guide furnished by General Ewell. I reported this to General Ewell, but at once went, in person, with all the men, and forming them into a skirmish line, searched for those guns until about three A.M., when we were compelled to relinquish the work owing to the withdrawal of our picket line. For the correctness of this statement, I refer you to Sergeant Green's letter, herewith inclosed. I remember distinctly that we found caissons but no guns. The manner in which we distinguished them as caissons was by feeling them, as it was too dark to see. When I returned to report to General Ewell, he was gone, nor do I remember ever to have spoken to him or thought about it since, as I considered that I had endeavored to do my duty to the best of my ability, and so thought the matter had ended, until I saw General Ewell's report. It appears therefore, that if four guns were there to be hauled off, and I do not deny that they were, I failed to find them, but not without a diligent search, in person, for the space of about five hours. General Ewell, therefore, fell into an error, unintentionally, no doubt, in supposing, as he states in his report, that I "left the duty to an orderly sergeant."

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R.C.M. Page,
Late Major of Artillery, Confederate States Army.




Letter from Sergeant Green.

Charleston West Va.. September 13, 1879.


Major R.C.M. Page:


My Dear Sir, -- Yours of the 19th ultimo has been received, but not without some delay, owing to my absence from this place at the time of its arrival.

          I cheerfully give you my recollections of our attempt to find some guns, said to have been recaptured by our infantry en the 12th day of May, 1864, at the battle of Spotsylvania.

          I was at that time first gun sergeant of Montgomery's battery, of the artillery battalion of which you were major.

         My recollection of the main facts in this connection are clear. Three of the guns of our battery with others of the battalion, and many caissons, had been captured early on the morning of the 12th. On the night of the 12th you told me that you had information -- that some of the guns had been recaptured and run to some point not far back of where they had been captured in the morning. I volunteered to go with a squad of men to hunt them and bring them off. This was in the early part of a very dark, and, I think, rainy night. After a fruitless search, I returned and reported to you that I could not find them; which fact, I think, you reported to General Ewell (we then being at his headquarters). Within a few moments afterwards, we started again in search of said guns, you taking charge of the squad in person. We continued this search until the falling back of our skirmish line left us without any picket between us and the Federal army; but never succeeded in finding a single gun; though, I think, we did find one or two caissons.

          The fact that you were along, and had charge in person, is distinctly impressed on my mind.

          I remember you and myself, during one search, stumbling over a wounded soldier, covered with an oil cloth, but whom we could not see for the darkness of the night.

          Hoping this may agree with your recollections on the subject, I am, yours truly,


S.S. Green




Letter from General A.L. Long.

Charlottesville, Va., September 15, 1879.


Rev. J. William Jones,
Secretary Southern Historical Society:

My Dear Sir, -- General Ewell in his report of the battle of Spotsylvania, May 12, 1864, states that Major Page "left the duty to an orderly sergeant" of getting off some guns said to be recaptured, and that "they were thus allowed to fall again into the enemy's hands."

          In this statement General Ewell does unintentional injustice to Major Page, who was one of the most faithful and energetic officers in my command.

          My recollection is that Major Page did everything in connection with these guns that a diligent officer could do.

          Evidence, besides, has recently been placed in my possession, which shows conclusively that Major Page did not leave the duty of finding and removing these guns exclusively to a sergeant, but went, in person, to see about the matter.

          The way in which General Ewell fell into error, was that Sergeant Green (a first class man) volunteered to go for the guns, and not being able to find them, reported that fact to Major Page, who, in turn, reported it to General Ewell. But immediately thereupon Major Page went with the men, in person, to look for the guns, but did not so inform General Ewell, who was gone when he returned.

          He made a diligent and faithful search, which was not relinquished till the withdrawal of our pickets. The result was the finding of some caissons only.


Very respectfully and truly, yours,


A.L. Long,
Late Brigadier General and Chief Artillery, Second Corps, A.N.V..


Letter from Colonel T.H. Carter.


Richmond, October 2d. 1879.


Doctor J. William Jones,
Secretary Southern Historical Society:


My Dear Doctor, -- I have read the correspondence you handed me. It will correct all erroneous statements in General Ewell's report of the 12th October, at Spotsylvania Courthouse -- an error made, of course, under a misapprehension of the facts, and calculated to do injustice to a faithful and gallant officer of my command. Moreover, I have just heard from an unimpeachable source that Mr. J.M. Stone, of Hanover, within the last week, has asserted positively, that he himself spent the greater portion of the night of the 12th October, in company with Major Page, searching for these guns. Mr. Stone was a member of Major Page's artillery battalion, which was a part of my artillery division. His statement fully confirms Sergeant Green's recollection of the search, and is conclusive. There was no more fair or ingenuous gentlemen in our army than General Ewell, and it is clear that he was misinformed in this matter.


Very truly, yours,


Thomas H. Carter,
Colonel Commanding Artillery Division, A.N.V., in late war.

bottom of page